Ten FEC reports to watch

The midterm elections may be 17 months away, but the Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports due next week will play an important role in what candidates the parties decide to support and which they decide to turn away.

The Democratic and Republican campaign committees will use what they find in the reports to put some candidates on a pedestal and quietly push others toward the exit in order to avoid a contentious primary.

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Here, then, are the 10 candidates on whom second-quarter FEC reports will have, or have already had, the most pronounced impact:

1. Ky. Sen. Jim Bunning (R)

 On Monday, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) announced he had raised just over $600,000 in the two months he has been running. That’s more than twice what Bunning raised in the entire first quarter. Bunning will be under more pressure to end his career if he doesn’t report a strong take for the second quarter, and he’s already said he expects to come in below Grayson’s total.

2. Kentucky Democrats

Meanwhile, the Democratic primary is no less interesting. Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo (D) had a strong start to his campaign, raising $430,000 in a month and a half in the first quarter. Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who entered the race this quarter, had a gargantuan $1.35 million showing in his first three months. Democrats would love to avoid a primary, so if Mongiardo begins to fall off pace, look for pressure to mount on him to bow out.

3. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D)

Like Kentucky, Ohio is a big pickup opportunity for Democrats as Sen. George Voinovich (R) calls it quits. And like in Kentucky, Democrats are desperate to avoid a primary that could hinder their efforts. In the first quarter, Brunner raised just $207,000, one-fifth the haul of Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D). If Brunner did not have a seriously strong second quarter, Democrats are likely to begin working behind the scenes to get her out of the race.

Meanwhile, ex-Rep. Rob Portman (R) started the race by outraising both Democrats combined and transferring still more money from his old congressional account. Portman’s robust start will give Democrats an added incentive to avoid blowing their money in a primary.

4.  Ill. Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D)

Despite Democrats’ best efforts, the party may not be able to avoid a primary in the race to replace Sen. Roland Burris (D). State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) raised more than $1 million to kick off his campaign, but he will need another strong quarter to fend off potential challengers.

Businessman and Kennedy scion Chris Kennedy (D) continues to ponder a race. A big quarter from Giannoulias could scare him off.

The eventual winner could face the GOP’s dream candidate, Rep. Mark Kirk (R). Kirk began telling Republicans in Washington he will run for the Seat on Wednesday, and he will report more than $1 million cash on hand this quarter after raising $580,000 in the past three months.

5. Fla. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D)

Polls show Gov. Charlie Crist (R) thumping Meek, and The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that Crist had raised $3 million in just six weeks on the trail.

But even though David is taking on Goliath, Meek is making sure he will have a few more than five stones in his pocket. Meek will also report raising north of $3 million, albeit over a longer timeframe.

This quarter will also be another chance for ex-state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), who has earned street cred among right-leaning conservatives, to demonstrate whether he poses a real challenge to Crist. Rubio raised $254,000 in the first quarter and another strong quarter could attract interest from the Club for Growth and other fiscal conservatives who aren’t Crist’s biggest fans.

6. Retired newspaper editor Doug Pike (D-Pa.)

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) has never taken more than 52 percent of the vote in his exurban district outside the Collar Counties of Philadelphia, and as he considers running for governor, Pike is mounting a strong bid for Gerlach’s seat.

Pike will report raising north of $500,000 for the second quarter, a number that will stand out among first-time candidates. State Rep. Curt Schroder (R) has filed the papers to begin raising money, but he would start well behind Pike in the money race if Gerlach does decide to run for governor.

Gerlach is a prolific fundraiser himself, but he ended the first quarter with just $124,000 in the bank after a tough reelection bid. If Pike finishes the quarter ahead of Gerlach, look for Democrats to put this race at the top of their takeover list next year.

7. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.)

 After winning by a comfortable margin in 2008, Kosmas wasted no time in stocking her war chest for 2010. She already has raised $650,000 for her reelection bid, her campaign reported Wednesday.

But Republicans are excited for Karen Diebel (R), a Winter Park city commissioner who announced her campaign in the first half of June. Sources say Diebel will approach the six-figure mark, an impressive start for a candidate who’s been on the job for just three weeks.

The GOP has already hammered Kosmas for failing to protect NASA jobs in the district that includes Cape Canaveral, and she is unlikely to face an easy race. From Diebel’s early success and Kosmas’s proven fundraising ability, it’s apparent that this won’t be a cheap race, either.

8. Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.)

In one of the most Republican districts held by a Democrat, the GOP has its sights set squarely on Bright. Bright didn’t wow anyone with his fundraising performance in 2008, and that “D” after his name isn’t going to do a lot of favors in a district that gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 63 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential race.

And Republicans have found a candidate who can raise money. Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby (R) will report raising more than $120,000 in her first month and a half as a candidate. If she can keep up the pace, she would give the GOP a real chance of sending the first woman from Alabama to Congress. But Bright isn’t giving up too easily; he had $189,000 in the bank at the end of March, a good start for him.

9. Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.)

 Hodes raised just $254,000 in the first quarter, disappointing Democrats who expected a much better performance. On Tuesday, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) announced she would resign to explore a Senate bid of her own, finally giving Republicans a top-tier candidate.

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If Hodes picks up the pace, he will remain the front-runner in a state that has trended Democratic of late. But expect Republicans to get behind Ayotte with full force, helping her make up for the advantage — however large or slight — Hodes has.

10. Md. State Sen. Andy Harris (R)

Harris’s hopes of winning a congressional seat were scuttled in 2008 after a nasty Republican primary. This year, he’s back for a rematch with freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D), and a big second-quarter haul could dissuade fellow Republicans from cluttering his primary field.

Harris, who has money to lend his campaign, already has $117,000 in the bank and could give Kratovil a scare if he avoids another costly, and bloody, primary.